SACRAMENTO—Exports of scrap tires from California to the Pacific Rim are increasing enormously, and many of the state's scrap tire recyclers are concerned about losing the raw materials they need to stay in business.
“It's a definite problem that's going to continue to grow,” said Michael Byrne, president of Shamrock Tire Recycling Inc. in Livermore, Calif.
In the last couple of years, Byrne said, he has lost 30 to 40 percent of his business to haulers who transport available waste tires to California ports for shipment to Asia for use as tire-derived fuel.
Byrne isn't the only recycler who is suffering because waste tires are being exported, according to Terry Leveille, legislative representative for the California Tire Dealers Association.
“With haulers paying as low as $20 a ton to deliver whole waste tires to ports in Oakland, Long Beach and Los Angeles (where most are baled as sent overseas in backhaul cargo containers), some tire recyclers are seeing their formerly robust tire flow—and subsequent output—severely reduced,” Mr. Leveille said in the July 11 issue of his California Tire Report, which he emails to CTDA members.
The $20-per-ton tipping fee charged by tire shippers compares with the $50 per ton Mr. Byrne said he has to charge for scrap tire shipments.
The details of California's current scrap tire situation are in the “California Tire Market Report: 2010” issued last month by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).
In 2010, California reached an all-time-record waste tire diversion rate of 81 percent, up from 72.6 percent in 2009, the report stated. CalRecycle projects an overall waste tire diversion rate in the state of 83 percent in 2011, which would be well on the way to reaching the department's goal of a 90-percent diversion rate by 2015.
“However, nearly all of this net increase was a result of the continued, unprecedented rapid growth of baled and processed waste tires to Pacific Rim nations, largely for use as tire-derived fuel,” the report said.
As always, domestic TDF use also played a major role in the California scrap tire market in 2010, CalRecycle said.
“If waste tire exports and domestic tire-derived fuel were excluded, the overall California waste tire diversion rate would be only 45.2 percent,” it said.
The export of California scrap tires began three or four years ago, when a group of people started buying up tires to ship to Vietnamese ports, then from there to the Vietnam-China border, according to Byrne.
“It's my understanding that imports of waste tires are illegal in China, so they had to ship them through the back door,” he said.
Now there are several outfits specializing in shipping scrap tires to Asia, and Byrne—whose company makes a 6-inch aggregate chip for civil engineering uses—said those shipments are making it increasingly harder for him to stay in business.
“If things continue the way they're going, soon they'll be going two or three states inland to get scrap tires to ship,” he said. “Every week I get two or three calls from exporters who want to deal with me. I tell them, 'You want me to completely change my business? I don't want to do that.'”
Mr. Byrne said he has tried to contact state officials several times to get their help, but has never heard back from any of them.
Mr. Leveille said CalRecycle officials have told him there is nothing they can do to prevent scrap tire imports to Asia. “Once the tires reach port, they tell me, those tires are out of their jurisdiction,” he said.
CalRecycle is continuing to do everything it can to promote waste tire recycling within California, but there's nothing it can do to prevent tires from being shipped overseas, according to a spokeswoman for the agency.
“Tire haulers are going to take their tires where it will cost them less, or even where they can earn something for them,” she said.
Although the new report shows that scrap tire exports are increasing rapidly, it also shows there is still plenty of crumb rubber and other scrap tire material available within the state, the spokeswoman said.
Among other programs to promote scrap tire use, CalRecycle will soon issue the details of a new grant and technical program to help suppliers of tire-derived aggregate, she said.
California generated 41.1 million scrap tires in 2010, just a shade less than the 41.2 million recorded in 2009, according to the CalRecycle report.